Tuesday, 25 July 2017


"'Sir,' said Merlin, 'what will come of this? If they put forth their power, they will unmake all Middle Earth.'
"'Their naked power, yes,' said Ransom. 'That is why they will work only through a man.'"
-CS Lewis, That Hideous Strength IN Lewis, The Cosmic Trilogy (London, 1990), pp. 349-753 AT Chapter 13, 5, p. 653.

"'...we have made the Sword for you, to sever their power and show humankind the truth of things. That much we can do in this turn of the Wheel, without breaking reality asunder with our contentions. All the rest is your burden.'"
-SM Stirling, The Sword Of The Lady (New York, 2010), Chapter Twenty-One, p. 653.

Merlin and Artos are human instruments of the Powers which must work through such an instrument if they are not to unmake Middle Earth or break reality.


Visions Of Heaven

"...very far away I could see what might be either a great bank of cloud or a range of mountains. Sometimes I could make out in it steep forests, far-withdrawing valleys, and even mountain cities perched on inaccessible summits. At other times it became indistinct. The height was so enormous that my waking sight could not have taken in such an object at all. Light brooded on the top of it: slanting down thence it made long shadows behind every tree on the plain. There was no change and no progression as the hours passed. The promise - or the threat - of sunrise rested immovably up there."
-CS Lewis, The Great Divorce (London, 1982), p. 29.

"Far distant mountains climbed steep and blue, their peaks floating like peaks of white. [Ignatius] thought the silver towers of a city rose in their foothills, tall and slender and crowned with banners."
-SM Stirling, The Sword Of The Lady (New York, 2010), Chapter Twenty-One, p. 641.

"The abbot rested a hand on [Ignatius'] shoulder; it was a light touch, but the younger monk felt a sudden shock at the depth of the contact. As if he was a ghost, a figment, and the contact had revealed him as unreal, a dream within a dream that strove to wake itself from illusion."
-Stirling, op. cit., p. 643.

"Screaming, I buried my face in the folds of my Teacher's robe. 'The morning! The morning!' I cried, 'I am caught by the morning and I am a ghost.'"
-Lewis, op. cit., p. 117.

Comparing CS Lewis and SM Stirling with Poul Anderson leads to comparing them with each other.

Future Destinations

These are fanciful comparisons:

the Time Traveller, seated on the Time Machine, travels to 802,701 AD, then to his Further Vision;

Martin Saunders, in his time projector, travels to and beyond the end of the universe;

the crew of a Bussard ramjet, the Leonora Christine, makes the same journey as Saunders but by time dilation instead of by time travel;

Hugh Valland, benefiting from the antithanatic and from instantaneous spatial jumps, continues to travel between galaxies into an indefinite future;

the spaceship Chinook travels via T machines to a place where the Others study a new monobloc;

James Blish's New Earthmen and Hevians, propelled by antigravity, fly the planet He to the Metagalactic Centre in order to create new universes after the mutual annihilation of the matter and anti-matter universes;

SM Stirling's Rudi Artos Mackenzie, armed with and empowered by the Sword, travels into the High Kingdom of Montival which did not previously exist!

Many imaginative future destinations.

Previous Posts

I am frankly amazed at the conceptual connections between The Time Machine and Poul Anderson's time travel fiction highlighted in a few recent posts. e.g., in:

Conceptual Continuities
Outer Narrators
The Arrow Of Time In Wells And Anderson I
The Arrow Of Time In Wells And Anderson II

These connections emerged in the process of writing about them. Earlier discussion of The Time Machine, Anderson's Time Patrol and the Time Traveller's successor, Doctor Who, can be found here, including a suggested synthesis of these three works of fiction. I started to imagine this synthesis in Norwich Cathedral shortly after visiting Walsingham, the site of an Apparition of the Virgin Mary (see In Norwich) who also appears in SM Stirling's Emberverse series. See Emberverse Theology, also here. Connections everywhere.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Conceptual Continuities

Conceptual Continuities Between The Time Machine And Poul Anderson's Time Travel Fiction

The Time Traveller:

initiates a discussion that includes the idea of a visit to the Battle of Hastings;
sits on, not in, the Time Machine;
fast forwards, then rewinds, the rest of the universe;
inaccurately describes this process as motion along the temporal dimension;
causes the outer narrator to contemplate "curious possibilities";
encounters devolved humanity;
traverses the entire future history of life on Earth before returning to the nineteenth century.

Time Patrolmen:

visit historical battles;
sit on their timecycles;
address the "curious possibilities";
encounter the next stage of evolution after humanity.

Jack Havig fast forwards and rewinds the universe.

Wardens and Rangers literally move along the temporal dimension inside their corridors.

Martin Saunders traverses the entire future and past histories of the cosmos and thus returns to 1973.

How Do Universes Develop And Why The Change?

See here.

"'...the Others would not let us do much more, the Maiden said, sadness in her voice. 'What we did...was something so terrible that only a greater terror made it possible to think it.'
"The Mother nodded. 'All we could do while Mind was divided...was take this island out of its year, so that it could then reach across the spiral and make the Change. The Change gives you time, no more, as the island was given time. Time to learn, so that when you regain the powers taken from you they'll be used properly.'"
-SM Stirling, The Sword Of The Lady (New York, 2010), Chapter Twenty-One, p. 652.

There is more about the Others and the Sword but this passage answers one of my main questions: who caused the Change and why? These gods are not omnipotent. If they were, then they would not have had to use such terrible means.

The other main question was: how are the universes connected?

"'And now there is a God...'" (p. 649) -

- clearly means that "God" has come into existence and thus is not "God" in the Christian sense.

OK, rereading pp. 647-649, there is a light at the beginning of each universe but that light is the monobloc of that universe whereas the light that survives one universe and passes into another universe is Mind? Two meanings of "light"?

Omnipotence And Aesthetics

An author is omniscient and omnipotent in relation to his characters. He can decide exactly whether or when they live and die. However, the author is bound by aesthetic considerations. Usually, the hero of a novel does not die on page 1! - unless, maybe, the rest of the text is going to be a series of flashbacks? It is difficult to delineate precisely what can or cannot happen but there are such rules nevertheless.

SM Stirling's Artos has the backing of God or a god. Is that deity omnipotent in relation to human affairs? An omnipotent creator from nothing of everything other than himself would be able to control every event. In battle, an arrow or spear would strike Artos only if such a creator decided that it should do so. The creator would be like the author of a novel. A lesser degree of "omnipotence" might just mean the ability to do whatever is possible according to the most fundamental laws of a given universe. Nevertheless, that would surely be enough to ensure Artos' success in every struggle and endeavour? Would such omnipotence, if it exists, negate drama? See Virtual Omnipotence.

Outer Narrators

Here is a fictional, and logically possible, scenario:

time travellers from our future are present now but disguised and concealed;

they have been active throughout history and have even influenced the course of history but again without anyone else's knowledge.

I will consider four versions of this scenario, one by Wells, three by Anderson.

The Time Machine
We begin not with time travellers from our future but with a time traveller from the author's present, i.e., from the late nineteenth century. The original "Time Traveller" presented an unconfirmed account of his journey through the future, then departed for a second time into either the past or the future but never returned. Notionally, he is invisibly present now in Richmond, London, on his outer and return journeys. He will be there until the end of life on Earth.

The Time Patrol Series
Time travelling explorers, scientists and tourists from civilizations later than 19452 AD are policed by the Time Patrol.

The Corridors Of Time
Two antithetical civilizations from two millennia in our future wage war throughout history.

There Will Be Time
Two groups of mutant time travellers contend to influence the further future after the post-nuclear Maurai Federation.

How different are Anderson's three scenarios! Now I want to address a point about narration. In all four cases, the time travel notionally occurs in our timeline although without our knowledge. If the Time Traveller had returned from his second expedition and had then initiated regular, publicized time trips, then those trips would have had to have occurred in an alternative timeline because we know perfectly well that there have been no such trips in our timeline. However, Wells "saved the appearances" by making both the Time Machine and the Cavorite sphere disappear, never to return, at the end of their respective narratives.

Similarly, Anderson's Time Patrol might really be operating in secret in our timeline? Well, no, it can't be. As a first point, Anderson subtly underlines that the Time Patrol scenario is fictional because Sherlock Holmes is a real person in that timeline. More importantly, however, our timeline is one in which the Time Patrol series by Poul Anderson has been published. A single timeline cannot accommodate both a secret Time Patrol and a published Time Patrol series. Therefore, we must in this case contemplate two timelines:

ours, in which the Time Patrol series exists;
theirs, in which the Time Patrol exists.

The same point applies to The Corridors Of Time, which begins with a third person account of its viewpoint character, Lockridge, being bailed out of gaol by a woman who turns out to be a time traveller and to need Lockridge's help. Such events cannot occur in the same timeline as a novel describing them. In any case, Lockridge winds up in the Bronze Age and there is no way that an account of that could ever have got back to the twentieth century.

However, there is a fictional convention by which, sometimes, real events are published as if they were fictional or at best ambiguously. In The Time Machine, the outer narrator tells us what was said at the Time Traveller's dinner table. It is the Time Traveller himself who is responsible for the accounts of time travelling. In There Will Be Time, Poul Anderson publishes a fictionalized acount based on notes left by Robert Anderson of his conversations with the mutant time traveller, Jack Havig. CS Lewis corresponds with the original of "Ransom" in his Ransom Trilogy. In these three cases, there is an "outer narrator" who merely informs his readers of what was said to have happened by the inner narrator...

It could have happened. This is a literary device to reinforce that "willing suspension of disbelief" which is necessary for all fiction.

Who Or What Caused The Change?

Who or what caused the Change in SM Stirling's Emberverse series? Was it Satan? See comments here. I understood that it was the good guys/gods. See here, including the Addendum dated today, and here. This view is backed up by the Wikipedia article on the novel (see here), which states that humanity had to be deprived of high technology so that it would have time to mature without destroying itself first. I will return to this issue when I have more information to hand.

Alternative Societies

Among many other issues, writers and readers of sf discuss:

how society should be organized here and now;

how it was organized in various historical periods;

how it might be organized if some initial conditions were altered - indeed "Changed."

Fsf authors imagine future and alternative feudalisms.

Although Poul Anderson's Terran Empire has all the trappings of historical imperialisms, it defends, in return for a modest tax, planetary populations who are free to organize their internal affairs however they decide.

The Change has deprived SM Stirling's Emberverse of the benefits of the industrial and technological revolutions but has not reduced it to mere subsistence level. In the High Kingdom of Montival, the Chancellor informs a young heiress that the Queen:

"'...will settle lands on you from the Crown demense, several manors, to be held by you in your own right for life as a tenant-in-chief of the Crown, and to descend to the heirs of your body.'"
-SM Stirling, The Tears Of The Sun (New York, 2012), Chapter Two, p. 27.

This fortunate young woman will have her pick of suitors and could even marry a landless man if she prefers.

"Land" means not just earth but commoners working the land and receiving in return for their labour only a small fraction of the wealth that that labour creates. Let's have everyone equitably benefitting from the fruits of their labours.